You might recall Rihanna rocking the Brit Awards earlier this year in electrifying style; she performed her No.1 hit Work while splashes of fluorescent pattern danced and new-waved across her body in hyper-surreal fashion. What you might not recall, however, is visual artist Philippa Price, who made the transformation happen. Price has made a name bringing her vision of futuristic surrealism to music videos, performances and installations globally and has shot videos for Banks, Pharrell and Alicia Keys as well as her live work for Rihanna and Drake.
And now, no lesser showbiz-savvy presence than designer Stella McCartney has tapped Price for the first in a new collaborative series called #StellaBy, in which artists will interpret their vision/version of McCartney’s collections. In the debut of the series, The Uncanny Valley, Price heads to the Clown Motel in the Nevada desert with models Bradley Soileau and Megan Nison, to inspire a wacky and wonderful slant on McCartney’s Women’s Spring 2017 collection and the Men’s Spring/Summer 2017.
Here what’s Price has to say of the crossover:
As a director, you incorporate sci-fi and technology into much of your video work in a very surreal way. Have you always been drawn to that combination?
Most definitely. I’m obsessed with both the history and the future possibilities of science and technology. To me, they are very surreal and exciting worlds in and of themselves. I have always been a science nerd, and I’ve also always drawn a lot of inspiration from my own dreams, so I think it’s only natural that science and the surreal come together in my work.
You have also directed some memorable music performances. Is the art of performance important for you?
Yes. I find the current platform with which videos and visuals are put out into the world (the internet) has rendered them pretty disposable. Creating a performance or video installation is something entirely different. You are creating a moment in time; a shared experience, that brings people together in a real, physical setting. It’s special.
Is there always a message you want to convey through your work and who do you think your work speaks to?
On the surface I hope my work is visually intriguing and eye catching to everyone. However, if you look deeper you will find that I infuse my work with a lot of hidden symbolism and layers of meaning that tell an entirely different story than what appears at the surface. So I guess the message is about being aware, looking beyond, and that nothing is ever as it seems.
We know you’ve been in Jamaica recently working on a project about Gully Queens, can you tell us more about it? What other projects have you been working on?
Well, firstly, thank you Stella for helping us make the Gully Queens project happen - it was one of the most emotional and life-changing pieces I have ever worked on. The Gully Queens are a small group of trans and gay youth in Jamaica who courageously choose to openly live the truth of their sexual and gender identities in a nation where homosexuality means complete alienation, brutal physical abuse, and often murder. Mindy, Shadiamond, Beyonka, and Sasha - the four women we had the opportunity to feature - have been stoned, beaten, burned, stabbed, shot, and denied the smallest hint of basic human rights because of their sexuality. Their stories are harrowing. We had to have armoured cars and body guards, we were chased off locations, and for the most part, had to shoot in secret. At the end of the shoot Mindy thanked us for treating them like humans. She said they've never been treated like humans before. We are all human, and it crushes my heart that some of us have yet to be treated as such.
I just showed a video installation at Art Basel this December in Miami, as well as some music video. I am also in the beginning stages of writing my first feature length film too!
For this project, what inspired your choice to shoot at the Clown Motel in Nevada? Do you have any other favourite places to shoot?
Well, to be honest, I was originally supposed to shoot the FW16 collection which to me had a slightly clown like theme to the silhouettes which is why I originally chose the Clown Motel. However, when I saw the new SS17 collection, which to me had a slightly Western Depression-Era vibe, it still worked perfectly.
I love allowing a location to inspire and shape the story of my shoot. I have a whole log stored of weird, wild, and wacky locations I refer to for every shoot I do.
How did you take our collection and turn it into something that fits into the context of your work?
It wasn’t hard at all! I love everything Stella does; there is a certain quirkiness to her clothing that fits perfectly within the world of my work.
The images and film have such a distinct style. Almost unnerving, from the make-up, to the music you chose. What was your creative thinking process behind the shoot’s story?
Interestingly it all came together as we were shooting and so much of that was inspired by the location. I did already have an idea of the makeup and hair looks I wanted beforehand, that was mostly based off of looking online at photos of the Clown Motel. However, once I got there the whole story totally came together. The Clown Motel itself is incredibly weird and wonderful, however I didn’t know how inspiring the whole area around it would become. The motel is next to this old graveyard which only has graves from 1906-1911. Then we discovered this incredible desert area that looks like it had rained cars. After driving around the town and finding weird location upon weird location (eerily, without seeing ANY people) ... I decided to look further into this strange place we had stumbled upon. It turns out the town was originally a mining town in the early 1900s, but then in the 1940s they built it as one of those fake atomic testing towns, where they dropped an atom bomb nearby to see what would happen to towns in the area. CRAZY. So from there the whole story took off.
You really put your stamp on our new Spring 17 collections and we love that your boyfriend wore womenswear and the female model was wearing menswear. Why did you take this approach?
I love gender fluidity in fashion. I wear a lot of menswear myself, and I think it’s incredibly sexy when a guy can pull off or is confident enough to wear womenswear. I mean... Bradley looks amazing in Stella dresses!
With that in mind, how would you define the Stella woman and the Stella man?
Quirky, confident, and totally unafraid to be themselves!